Profitable companies are using the economic crisis as an excuse to sack workers and slash wages.
Despite a 9 per cent rise in profit to $713 million dollars last financial year, Fosters has outsourced the jobs of over 100 maintenance workers at its Abbotsford plant in Melbourne through a labour hire company.
The workers will be “allowed” to apply to get their jobs back, but the company will only rehire about 60 per cent of them.
The workers were offered about $5 an hour less pay. Most refused this and set up a community protest outside the factory. Many Fosters’ workers at the 24 hour community protest outside the gate had worked there long term. One had been there 37 years.
After Fosters agreed to negotiate workers accepted a settlement on March 20 that will see those who do keep their jobs retain most of their previous pay and conditions.
Fosters’ tactics were an absolutely blatant attempt to squeeze workers to increase profits.
In a similar attack, 40 workers on Melbourne’s Westgate bridge have been sacked for insisting on industry standard wages. They negotiated an agreement with sub-contractor Civil Pacific Services, but have had construction company John Holland refuse to honour it.
Instead the company negotiated a separate agreement with the AWU, cutting conditions and pay by up to 20 per cent. Civil Pacific Services workers were then sacked, and have set up a protest at the site and also outside John Holland’s office in Port Melbourne.
According to AMWU organiser Tony Mavromatis “This is just another case of corporate greed. Like Pacific Brands and Fosters, Holland wants to employ people at a cheaper rate. It’s got nothing to do with the financial crisis.”
Fosters workers also linked their sackings to corporate greed, with one saying “we have to try and stop this corporate greed, or this will happen everywhere”.
These sackings—where workers are replaced by people who are paid less—are the same horror scenario workers were facing under WorkChoices. Yet Rudd has done nothing to stop it.
The maintenance workers at Fosters are members of the AMWU and ETU. Unfortunately around 400 LHMU production workers at the site continued working in spite of the LHMU being approached for support. But after treating maintenance workers this way, production workers must worry that they will be next in line for similar treatment.
Unfortunately unions have begun to frame their opposition by attacking foreign workers. An official from the ETU commented: “I think ‘VB’ will taste a lot different for Australians now that they know that Aussies have been replaced by overseas labour.”
Targeting foreign workers can only divert workers’ anger from those really responsible—the bosses. Fosters are responsible for this ploy to cut pay and conditions—that is what we should be angry about. Drop by and lend your support to Westgate bridge workers:John Holland at 275 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne and near the worksite on Hyde Street, Spotswood (near corner Hyde and Francis street)
By Chris Breen

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